Career rebooting seems to happen to different people at different stages of their careers. For some it happens within the first two years of work. (“Why did I ever study engineering or computers?” “What am I doing in this IT company?”). For others it seems to happen later; eight to ten or even twenty years after leading reasonably successful work lives. (“Is this all there is to work and to life?” “Do I have to do the same stuff for the next twenty years?”)
As I speak to people, grappling with the issue of deciding what to do next, one challenge seems to appear frequently; the challenge of distinguishing ‘what I do well’ from ‘what I am interested in doing’.
While it may seem natural to assume the two are aligned, quite often, that is not the case. It is quite frequent to come across people who have built proficiency in a set of skills, but are deploying them in an area that does not interest them. That may lead to a situation where the job is being done successfully, but there is a sense of emptiness with what they are doing. It is not fulfilling and people complain of an absence of meaning or a sense of purpose.
When clients approach me at such a time in their lives, I invite them to take the Strong Interest Inventory® (SII). It helps them recognize their broad interest themes and then helps drill it down to narrower interest areas. Finally it compares their likes and dislikes to people across 130 occupations, thus offering a unique insight into how similar or dissimilar the individual may be from people who enjoy a particular occupation. The instrument is meant to invite a conversation around interests and occupations rather than prescribe one or the other. It leaves the individual feeling empowered to explore a range of options rather than limit them to a few.
In such conversations, the conflict between ‘what I do well’ and ‘what I have an interest in doing’ comes through so clearly. It is hard to leave the security of what I do well, even for a short while to explore the universe of interests. When finally, we pick up the courage and dare ourselves to do so, interesting options emerge. We start talking about dreams that have been abandoned in the striving to be secure and employable. We talk about childhood interests that were given up due to subtle or not so subtle parental expectations. Options emerge through which we explore how, what we are good at can be deployed in an area of interest.
At times, I have reached a point in the conversation where the person acknowledges that they need to continue doing what they are doing for the moment or that they need to continue with a similar job for financial reasons. But the conversation around their interests helps them take a relook at their lives with a wider lens than ever before. A ‘this or that’ conversation becomes a ‘this and that’ conversation. (Accountants with an Artistic interest may take up painting or music lessons in their spare time; Research students with a Realistic interest may take up gardening or aerobics to give themselves outdoor activity and physical action). It’s funny, but the time available seems to expand to include our interests into our life space. We might actually end up working longer and harder but it doesn’t feel that way because life is more ‘interesting’.
Now isn’t that a better way to achieve work-life balance?
For more information about the Strong Interest Inventory® or to have a conversation around your Strong Interest Inventory® Report write to us at email@example.com.